General Assembly Republicans Unveil Proposals to Address Illegal Immigration
-House & Senate Leaders Advance Measures to Increase Cooperation with Federal Law Enforcement-
-GOP Legislators Unite Behind Proposals to Preserve State Benefits for Legal Residents-
RICHMOND, VA – At a news briefing today, Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Senate Majority Leader Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico), joined by Senator Jay O’Brien (R-Fairfax) and Delegate David B. Albo (R-Fairfax), unveiled a package of legislative measures to address the Commonwealth’s growing influx of illegal aliens and the challenges of providing costly government services and other benefits to them.
The package of legislation includes both proposals that would allow state and local authorities to cooperate with federal immigration officials, as well as strengthen Virginia’s enforcement capabilities in dealing with illegal immigrants who have committed additional crimes. In addition, the proposals would preserve the benefits of state-supported higher education, including lower tuition rates, to legal residents and those with valid student visas.
“Honest, law-abiding Virginia taxpayers have had enough,” declared Senator Stosch. “The time has arrived when we can no longer count on the federal government. In Virginia, we will have to step up and take actions that will preserve the integrity of the delivery of state services, ensuring that they go only to legal residents. We will not promise what we can not deliver. We will hone in on effective measures that the state can take to address the legitimate concerns of our citizens.”
The package of legislative proposals outlined by the Republicans included:
- Mandating that all local Sheriffs, upon a lawful arrest for a crime, confirm that person’s legal presence in the United States using the nationwide databases of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This change will streamline and strengthen statewide immigration enforcement.
- Ensuring that at least one person on duty in every jail at all times has been certified under federal 287(g) authority (named for the section of federal law that allows more effective cooperation between federal immigration officials and state and local governments). This change means that, upon a positive identification of an illegal alien, there will be a person with federal authority readily available to detain and begin deportation proceedings, after that individual has served his or her sentence.
- Creating a presumption of no bail for any person who has been charged with an offense punishable by jail or prison time and who has been determined (through ICE databases) to be illegally present in the United States. This change will help stop controversial “catch and release” activities, one of the primary ways illegal aliens currently pass through existing government systems unchecked.
- Making a federal conviction for hiring illegal aliens grounds for suspension of a business license issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia. This change will serve as an effective deterrent to the unlawful hiring of illegal aliens.
The legislators characterized the Republican proposals as common sense measures to provide more effective enforcement of existing laws and improve coordination between federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities. They also reaffirmed their commitment to restraining the growth in government spending by preserving taxpayer-supported public benefits for those legally residing in the United States. Republican lawmakers indicated that their proposals will continue to be honed between now and January, as they anticipate some legislators will have additional refinements and ideas to be considered during the
- Prohibiting illegal aliens from attending Virginia public institutions of higher education unless they have a valid student visa. Recognizing that college entrance slots are fixed and limited, this change will preserve state benefits for in-state students and their families.
2008 General Assembly session which starts January 9. However, they expressed the support of their respective caucuses for the measures detailed at today’s news conference.
“As highlighted by the 400th Anniversary commemoration at Jamestown, America is a nation of immigrants,” said Speaker Howell. “Our nation and this commonwealth have long been and must always remain a bright beacon of hope and opportunity, a shining place where we welcome new members of the American family. As the foundations of society are based on the rule of law, those who come here are expected to abide by those laws, including the rules that allow entrance to our country. Permitting illegal aliens to circumvent the rule of law not only undermines the integrity and well being of our society and stretches thin limited taxpayer resources at all levels of government, but is an injustice to those immigrants who followed the lawful path in coming to Virginia and the United States. Today, we have unveiled a package of common-sense proposals that deal with this challenge in a thoughtful, measured and responsible way.”
All in all, it sounds like a good start.